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Durham University

Policy, Professions and Communities Research Group


Publication details for Dr Sol Gamsu

Gamsu, S. (2018). The ‘other’ London effect: the diversification of London's suburban grammar schools and the rise of hyper‐selective elite state schools. The British Journal of Sociology 69(4): 1155-1174.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper examines the rise of a new elite of ‘super‐state’ schools in London, revealing a growing divide within the state sector which problematizes claims that the capital is a ‘hotspot’ for social mobility (Social Mobility Commission 2016). Although recent research has revealed a ‘London effect’ in which students in the capital on Free School Meals outperform their peers in other regions (Greaves, Macmillan and Sibieta 2014), inequalities between London's schools in access to elite universities have been overlooked. Drawing on a case study of a suburban London grammar school, ‘King Henry's School’, I show how ethnic‐minority suburbanization has combined with an institutional strategy to compete with elite private schools. Strategies of selection have been mobilized alongside elements of elite ‘gentlemanly’ educational culture in order to reposition the school within the hierarchy of London's schools. The result is a hyper‐selective school which provides a conduit to elite universities for upwardly mobile British‐Asian students. I show that this strategy has strong parallels with the school's attempts in the early twentieth century to compete with London's fee‐paying ‘public’ schools. The continuing symbolic value of ‘traditional’ forms of elite educational culture to a school seeking to reposition itself within the field reflects deep structural patterns of inequality in English education. To understand how apparent improvements in social mobility can sit alongside deepening inequalities between state schools, there is a need for a historical sociological approach that takes account of long‐term processes of institutional change (Savage 2009; Inglis 2014).